5 Smooth stones

The stories we share as Unitarian Universalists come from so many different sources– today, I share a story with you about a Unitarian named James Luther Adams. He was born in the early 1900s, and he was a minister and a teacher who spent a lot of time studying lots of different stories and ideas. 

One of the stories that James was interested in was a story in the Hebrew scriptures about David and Goliath. David was the youngest and smallest of many brothers who lived in a land called Israel, and they lived at a time when the Philistine army was getting ready to invade, and their army included a great, big giant, named Goliath. 

Now it happened that now a single soul in Israel thought that it was possible to defeat this giant–except for David. So David volunteered, as he prepared to meet the giant, he thought about what it is he would need and decided that rather than a big suit of armor, what he required was something small, something that he could keep close at hand. So he stopped at the river bed and found 5 smooth stones and put them in a pouch– and it was with these that he defeated Goliath. 

This story made James Luther Adams think; he thought: even if we have never had to face actual great, big giants like Goliath, sometimes the things that face us in our lives feel like great, big giants and sometimes these things might make us feel scared. So he wondered– what 5 things do we all need to keep at our sides, as religious liberals, when we feel like the way forward is impossible? And so, he wrote about the 5 smooth stones of Liberal Religion.

The first thing he thought was: you know what–every single day, we are al learning something new. The world and what we experience and know is constantly transforming. New wisdom is being revealed to each of us all the time, wherever we go and whomever we’re with, we are all always learning something new. The first stone reminds us that we are always learning. 

The second thing he said was it is that it is important that we seek out community, and most important that our communities are freely chosen. As Unitarian Universalists, we choose to be in covenant with each other. The second stone reminds us to be in Covenant; to be in right relationship.

The third thing he said is that it is our job to work for a loving community. Just as our words that our children say as we light the chalice: we work for friendship and peace in our world — this third stone reminds us to work for love in our world.  

The fourth thing that he thought was that we need to look for ways to live the things we believe to be true out loud in the world, each and every day. This means that we cannot just believe in a loving world, we need to actively look for ways to live it. The fourth smooth stone calls us to action.

The last thing he said was that even though there are times when things might get tough– all of these things–the fact that we are always learning, that we are in covenant, that we work for loving communities, and that we are a people of action, is all enough to give us hope. 

Even if what faces us feels like a giant– the fifth smooth stone calls us to find and grow that deep sense of hope, and let our hope guide us in all that we do. 

By Amy Peterson Derrick

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